By Amy Collins
What we did
We ignored the many display and co-op opportunities available at bookstores.
Too many times, authors will attempt to get their books into bookstores and onto the shelves of retailers and give up as soon as they receive their first “no thank you.”
When a store turns us away when we offer them a book for sale, that is not usually a solid “no.” It is an answer to our first question. Perhaps we are not asking the right question. We were asking them to give us money in exchange for our books before we have proven that our books will make them money in return.
What should we do instead?
We should ask a different question!
Instead of allowing “no” to be the end of the conversation, why not ask a different question? For instance, “What advertising or display opportunities are available for publishers and authors who have advertising funds?”
You see, in many cases, all it takes to get your book into a number of stores is the understanding that the stores are not in a position to buy your books before they’ve proven that they will make the store money. That is why so many stores start books out on consignment. But even on consignment (a system where you do not get paid until after the books are sold), the stores are still risking their precious shelf space on your book. Shelf space that could be used to sell books that are making them money. And if your book does not sell, you are costing them money.
The simple solution is to offer them a reason to give your book a chance. And the holidays are the PERFECT time to do this because the stores are STUFFED with shoppers. It gives your advertising and display funds their BEST chance.
Believe it or not, the 2019 winter holidays are already underway in the retail world. Bookstores and major retailers are already deep in the planning stages of what books will be on their shelves during the winter holidays. Now is the time to create your holiday 2019 plan and get it started.
What we should do now
Let’s take a look at some simple things that we can do that will put us in a much stronger position this winter when the holidays come up.
- Evaluate which of our books make the most sense for the holiday season.
Yes, books sales triple in December and stay very strong through the first few weeks of January, but a heartbreaking memoir on the loss of a beloved dog is most likely not a book that should be marketed as a holiday gift. Take into account whether or not the book would actually make a good gift.
- Create at least three themes in which your book could be included for a display or a flyer.
For example, if you’ve written a mystery novel then your book would be perfect on a table for mystery lovers.
It might also be a terrific inclusion in a catalog or flyer entitled “the perfect gift for Dad”.
The third idea? It could be something as simple as highlighting the city in which the novel is based in pulling together a list of books that all take place in that same city. Why not create a flyer that includes all the books in your genre that take place in Baltimore? And then you have an amazing idea to present to every Baltimore retailer for the holiday time.
- After you’ve determined your book is a good gift, and you’ve come up with at least three ideas that you can give to the booksellers of displays and some flyers where your book could be included, start reaching out to the booksellers with your ideas and with an offer of cooperative advertising funds if they will include your book on the table or on a display or in a catalog.
- Don’t forget existing display or catalog opportunities! Here is a list of the holiday catalogs being offered in 2019 by the different regional memberships of the American booksellers association.
- New England, North Atlantic and Great Lakes catalogs
- MidWest Bookseller Catalog
- Northern California
- Pacific Northwest
These catalogs are not inexpensive, but your books will be touted in hundreds of thousands of flyers and catalogs that will end up in bookstore shoppers’ shopping bags and in their hands.
So many independent bookstores use the ABA holiday catalog to decide which books to take in during the holiday season. They reward publishers and authors who advertise in these catalogs.
There’s no guarantee that you will be stocked, but in my experience, stores do buy your books when they see you in this catalog because they want to have the books that the ABA catalog is advertising to their customers.
- Start now. If you click on any of those links above, he will see that the deadlines for the holiday catalogs are coming up fast! Many Christmas catalogs and displays are decided by June. So now is the time to get started on your holiday promotions.
- Follow up follow up follow up.
When approaching bookstores with cooperative advertising ideas and funds, it’s hard to imagine a bookstore turning down money to display a book. But the stores are significantly understaffed, and the buyers and marketing people are being besieged from all sides.
You may need to reach out a few times before you get their attention. And even if they intended to respond to you, something might have come up mid-email. It’s always a good idea to reach out to them a few times to ask if there’s any way you can be of service.
Promoting your books to readers is a great idea, but I hope this list of holiday themed retail promotion ideas gets you in the holiday mood.
It is hard to believe, but now is the time to be getting your holiday 2019 ducks in a row.